The NYTimes on why innocent e-mails can lead to trouble

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BLOT: (20 Aug 2010 - 11:21:22 AM)

The NYTimes on why innocent e-mails can lead to trouble

This is a three-year-old article, but it makes some good points: E-mail is easy to write (and to Misread). Central to it, are these lines:

New findings have uncovered a design flaw at the interface where the brain encounters a computer screen: there are no online channels for the multiple signals the brain uses to calibrate emotions.
Face-to-face interaction, by contrast, is information-rich. We interpret what people say to us not only from their tone and facial expressions, but also from their body language and pacing, as well as their synchronization with what we do and say.
Most crucially, the brain's social circuitry mimics in our neurons what's happening in the other person's brain, keeping us on the same wavelength emotionally.

And, as anyone who has ever received an e-mail from their unrequited love interest knows, this next bit:

In an article to be published next year in the Academy of Management Review*, Kristin Byron, an assistant professor of management at Syracuse University's Whitman School of Management, finds that e-mail generally increases the likelihood of conflict and miscommunication.
One reason for this is that we tend to misinterpret positive e-mail messages as more neutral, and neutral ones as more negative, than the sender intended. Even jokes are rated as less funny by recipients than by senders.

Like that bit about jokes isn't well known by anyone who has ever, EVER, received a joke from their mom. What I find most interesting (and I'll return this after doing some more studying on it) is that we don't merely see our own emotions in the e-mails we get, but we see emotions based on a complex interchange of concepts. I can attest that neutral e-mails feel dismissive rather than quick, perfunctory instead of efficient. Weird people, we are. Weird people.

TAGS: E-mail

*: The article in question is - BYRON, KRISTIN. "CARRYING TOO HEAVY A LOAD? THE COMMUNICATION AND MISCOMMUNICATION OF EMOTION BY EMAIL." Academy of Management Review 33, no. 2 (April 2008): 309-327. Business Source Premier, EBSCOhost (Assension Number: 31193163). I have not read it, but have saved it and will be reading it this weekend.

BY WEEK: 2010, Week 33
BY MONTH: August 2010

Written by Doug Bolden

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